|With Joy, modeling her bling & book!|
Joy Preble spoke to Austin SCBWI about The Sweet Dead Life (SoHo Teen, 2013) at BookPeople on Saturday. From the promotional copy:
"I found out two things today: One, I think I'm dying. "And two, my brother is a perv."
So begins the diary of 14-year-old Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad eighth-grade year. Her single mother spends all day in bed. Dad vanished when she was eight. Her sixteen-year-old brother, Casey, tries to hold together what's left of the family by working two after-school jobs—difficult, as he's stoned all the time.
To make matters worse, Jenna is sick. When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in their beat-up Prius and crashes instead.
Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her. Beatified. Literally. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that Casey didn't survive the accident at all. He's an "A-word." (She can't bring herself to utter the truth.)
Soon they discover that Jenna isn't just dying; she's being poisoned. And Casey has been sent back to help solve the mystery that not only holds the key to her survival, but also to their mother's mysterious depression and father's disappearance.
|Greg Leitich Smith, E. Kristin Anderson, Nikki Loftin
|Joy, P.J. Hoover, Cory Putnam Oakes, me & Jessica Lee Anderson
|K.A. Holt, Lindsey Scheibe, Shelli Cornelison
|Don Tate, Varian Johnson & Greg
|Mari Mancusi wins Joy's angel trivia quiz
|Joy signs for Cory
|After party at Shoal Creek Saloon|
Kit Grindstaff is the first-time author of The Flame in the Mist (Delacorte, 2013). From the promotional copy:
The sun never shines in the land of Anglavia. Its people live within a sinister mist created by their rulers, the cruel Agromond family.
The Agromonds' control is absolute; no one dares defy them. But things are about to change, for the youngest of them is not like the others...
Fiery-headed Jemma has always felt like the family misfit, and is increasingly disturbed by the dark goings-on at Agromond Castle. The night before her thirteenth birthday, Jemma discovers the terrifying reason why: She is not who she thinks she is, and the Agromonds have a dreadful ritual planned for her birthday—a ritual that could kill her.
But saving her skin is just the first of Jemma's ordeals. Ghosts and outcasts, a pair of crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient Prophecy—all these gradually reveal the truth about her past, and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than any she could imagine.
With her trusted friend, Digby, and her two telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, Jemma faces enemies both human and supernatural. But in the end, she and her untapped powers might be the only hope for a kingdom in peril.
How did you discover and get to know your protagonist? How about your secondary characters? Your antagonist?
I first came across the seed of my main character, Jemma, at a workshop where we were each asked to summarize the essence of our childhood as a fairy tale—quickly, without too much thinking—in one paragraph.
What leapt to my mind was the isolation I’d felt as a small child living in a large house outside a village and having very little daily contact with non-family kids until I went to school.
So the Once Upon a Time that splurged onto my page was about this castle on a hill miles from anywhere and the girl who dreamed of escaping…
Fast forward several years, and that castle morphed into Agromond Castle, the opening setting of The Flame in the Mist, where Jemma is effectively held prisoner—isolated, and longing to see the world beyond its walls. To flesh her out, I used an exercise learned in my first ever writing class (with Gotham Writers Workshop in New York City): scribbling down a list of characteristics as quickly as possible, with no forethought or editing. A lot of that list became part of who Jemma is, including: headstrong, stubborn, loves anagrams, loves food, has prophetic dreams, can communicate with animals, has pet rats. A mix of myself (I adore playing word games, and food…), and some not. (Rats? I hated them—that is, until I created Noodle and Pie.)
Later, it amazed me how much that list also fed the book’s themes. Jemma’s prophetic dreams, for example, became central. A more obscure one was her love of anagrams. At first, it was a quirk that offered some fun opportunities for foreshadowing (at one point, seeing her family’s motto, Agromondus Supremus, her head spins out the words grand, groan, mouse, demons . . . ), but I had no idea how important it would become until toward the very end, when an idea emerged about solving anagrams being vital to her mission—and survival.
Who’d have thought….anagrams, as integral to the plot? Not me.
To begin with, though, they were too one-dimensionally evil, so my editor suggested I write back stories for them. Each was like a mini-novella of about 10 pages long, written much like those first lists of traits, with no forethought, no editing. I did, however, start with the question “What ghosts haunt this character?”—literally, and/or psychologically. (Not my idea, but I’m afraid I don’t remember where I got it from, so can’t credit its origin.)
That gave the stories a sharp and delicious focus, and the details that surged up from my subconscious surprised and thrilled me. I’d literally gasp and say things like, “So that’s why Nox has such a soft spot for Jemma!” and “That’s why Shade is afraid of rats!” Until then, I’d had no idea—though evidently the dark corners of my mind did.
How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making? Where did you get your ideas? To whom did you turn for support? Are you enjoying the process, or does it feel like a chore? What advice do you have on this front for your fellow debut authors and for those in the years to come?
Around January of last year, my book deal was signed and I knew it was time to get my online chops together. I had a personal profile on Facebook, but that was about it. I didn’t get Twitter at all. So, where to begin?
Fortunately for me, last year’s New York SCBWI conference offered a one-day marketing workshop. Thank you, SCBWI! That workshop truly kick-started my efforts.
I turned up knowing practically nothing. By the end of the day, my head was bulging with new concepts. It would take time and patience to absorb what I’d learned, but I’d made a start.
The workshop covered a number of aspects: social media—mainly Twitter (@kitgrindstaff) and Facebook—as well as blogging, branding, making book trailers (I’d never heard of them, but now have one on YouTube (see below)), and the importance of a killer website—for middle grade authors, the most important hub of online presence.
The latter was easiest to wrap my head around. One of the workshop presenters was a website designer whose work I loved: Maddee James of Xuni.com. I already knew I wanted to work with her, so I introduced myself. Step one, taken. Not so bad.
About social media and blogging, every presenter stressed only to take it on if you enjoy it—a duff online presence being worse than none at all. That was comforting. I immediately let myself off the blogging hook for the moment; but I loved Facebook, so could easily conceive of creating a page for my author presence in addition to my personal profile—a distinction I hadn’t yet made.
Twitter was still mind-boggling to me: more narcissistic garbage and tiresome self-promotion polluting the cyber-waves, I thought. But the Twitter presenter reframed it completely. Self-promotion should be the least of it, she said. We should follow people who genuinely interested us, and engage in conversations. Be authentic. Promote others, who would in turn promote us.
Et voila! The crux of Twitter’s potential: a community of like-minded individuals reaching out to connect with each other, rather than a cacophonous, competitive squabble. I loved that idea.
I love supporting others, and receiving it back. Book bloggers, fellow writers, readers…we’re a community. And for me, community is key.
Once I was out there, things began to happen.
For example, about a month into tweeting, I received a tweet from an author belonging to a group called The Lucky 13s—kidlit authors debuting in 2013. She’d come across my profile, and saw that I was also debuting in ’13.
“Hop on over to the blog and join us!” she said.
So I did.
That one tweet changed my life. The sense of companionship and support in the Luckies is terrific. We share concerns and excitement, and our (private) proboards are a fabulous resource for ideas—swag, cover reveals, attending conferences and fairs, you name it. There’s a Luckies blog, with group blogs—perfect for a not-quite-blogging-yet person like me. I can’t imagine what navigating the road to publication would have been like without them. More scary, for sure, and not nearly as much fun, with a fraction of the opportunities.
So to new and upcoming authors, I’d say, Connect, connect, connect. If you need to learn the ropes, go to workshops, or research online. With social media, there’s many to choose from: Tumblr, Pinterest and Goodreads are other options.
Go with what feels right; if you don’t enjoy it, it’s hard to put the time in. But if something feels a little awkward or difficult at first, at least try it, stay with it for a while and see what happens. Take it slowly, find a way to approach it playfully. “The web” is a great image to keep in mind, with its mass of interconnections. You never know where following one thread can lead.
The Belmar Public Library invited me to attend so I could read my book to school kids as part of the event. Of course, I said "yes".
Turns out that there's going to be a BIG to-do on Wednesday, including the schools closing early (or at least running field trips) so that the kids can all be there for the grand (re)opening, and a visit from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. And sometime after he's done speaking, I'm supposed to read AT THE BOARDWALK to some subset of the school kids.
I am going with "Chris Christie is my opening act." Also, I am wishing I had someone to tag along with me to take photos during the event. My sweetheart is teaching classes, and can't make it, and Maggie has a full school day. Anyone? . . . Buehler?
- Current Mood: nervous
- Current Music:White & Nerdy by Weird Al Yankovic (brainradio)
The book begins with a poem called the ‘Nightmare’, which I posted on my blog recently, and seems to suggest that the entire book was just a horrid old dream. The first chapter too paints a psychedelic imagery of red brick houses and red sunset and a red haired man, i.e. the Saffron Park. It does all feel like a dream, till two poets begin to debate on whether order or chaos is the true spirit of poetry. I kid you not, one of these poets is a man of law (an underclothes policeman called Gabriel Syme) and the other poet is an anarchist named Gregory.
I have read that Anarchists in the early 1900s regularly shot people and Presidents and caused ‘reigns of terror’. (That is an exaggeration, no, it isn't.) They may not call themselves that anymore, but every secessionist movement and every terrorist outfit is definitely a manifestation of anarchism?
Anyway, to cut a long story short, the debate gets really heated, and Gabriel Syme outwits Gregory to reveal some unsavoury secrets. With some quick and clever thinking, our genius and poetic hero, Syme, manages to infiltrate a band of anarchists, called the Council. Each member of this Council is named after a day of the week (here lies a hint), and Syme is appointed to the post of Thursday. Syme’s real goal is to flout the plans of the Council, save the world, and expose the notorious head of the gang, the man everyone calls Bloody Sunday. Will Syme succeed?
Stop here, if you don’t want me to ruin the book for you with my spoilers.
( Read the rest of Spoiler-Filled Review....Collapse )
- Current Location:Wikipedia
- Current Mood: confused
- Current Music:-blank-
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations
This week 6000 people attended Canada’s largest children’s literature event, the Forest of Reading, Festival of Trees—two days of award ceremonies, writing workshops, author signings, and other exciting activities that celebrate the shared experience of reading.
Child readers from participating schools across the province of Ontario chose the winning books. The awards in each age category are named for a different Canadian tree, and the winner plaques feature original art by a child reader.
|Blue Spruce award winner Martin Springett|
2013 Blue Spruce™ Award Winner (K-grade 2): Kate and Pippin by Martin Springett and Isobel Springett (Puffin Canada/Penguin Group)
2013 Silver Birch® Express Award Winner (grades 3-4): Margaret and the Moth Tree by Brit Trogen and Kari Trogen (Kids Can Press)
2013 Silver Birch® Fiction Award Winner (grades 5-6): Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (Scholastic Canada)
2013 Silver Birch® Non-Fiction Award Winner (grades 3-6): No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs by Rob Laidlaw (Pajama Press)
2013 Red Maple™ Fiction Award Winner (grades 7-8): The Vindico by Wesley King (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/ Penguin Group)
|Red Maple Non Fiction winner Bill Swan|
2013 Red Maple™ Non-Fiction Award Winner (grades 7-8): Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death by Bill Swan (James Lorimer & Company)
|White Pine winner Jeyn Roberts and nominee Lena Coakley|
2013 White Pine™ Award Winner (grades 9-12): Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts (Simon & Schuster BFYR)
Le Prix Tamarac 2013 (French language fiction, grades 5-6): Le mystère des jumelles Barnes by Carole Tremblay (Bayard Canada Livres)
Le Prix Tamarac Express 2013 (French language fiction, grades 3-4): Billy Stuart: 1. Les Zintrépides by Alain M. Bergeron and Sampar (Éditions Michel Quintin)
Le Prix Peuplier 2013 (French language fiction, grades K-2): Le zoo de Yayaho by Geneviève Lemieux and Bruno St-Aubin (Bayard Canada Livres)
Lena Coakley was born in Milford, Connecticut and grew up on Long Island. In high school, creative writing was the only class she ever failed (nothing was ever good enough to hand in!), but, undeterred, she went on to study writing at Sarah Lawrence College.
She became interested in young adult literature when she moved to Toronto, Canada, and began working for CANSCAIP, the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers, where she eventually became the Administrative Director. She is now a full-time writer living in Toronto.
Witchlanders, her debut novel, was called “a stunning teen debut” by Kirkus Reviews. It is a Junior Library Guild selection and an ABC new voices selection.
See also New Voice: Lena Coakley on Witchlanders.
|Read the novel by Suzanne Collins|
From the promotional copy:
"'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' begins as Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a 'Victor's Tour' of the districts.
Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) - a competition that could change Panem forever.
"'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' is directed by Francis Lawrence, and produced by Nina Jacobson's Color Force in tandem with producer Jon Kilik. The novel on which the film is based is the second in a trilogy that has over 50 million copies in print in the U.S. alone. 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' opens Nov. 21."
Dear Ms. Creech,
This is a thank you note mixed with a confession. Read on, and you’ll understand.
First, I have to say that I loved your talk at the New England SCBWI Conference and was thrilled to finally meet you in person.
So thank you for that. But that’s only part of the thank you. Before I get to the rest, I have to do the confession part.
So…you know that poem you have on your website? The one that explains to teachers why you can’t accept any more invitations for school visits this year? It starts like this:My phone is ringing
and the fax is going
and sometimes I am sick
(I hope you are not sick!)
and my car needs fixing
and I have to go
to the grocery store
and do the laundry
and clean up messes
and I am supposed to be
writing a new book
which takes a lot of time
to think about and
to write all those little words…
(The rest of Sharon’s why-I-can’t-visit poem is here, for those of you who are not Sharon and don’t know how it goes.)
You might not remember this, but a whole bunch of years ago – maybe nine or ten – you got an email from a teacher
begging you to requesting that you consider making an exception to your no-more-school-visits-this-year policy. It was written as a poem, too, because she thought you might like that, and she figured it was worth a try. She doesn’t have that exact poem any more, but it went something like this.
That teacher figured it was a long shot. (She used to be a reporter and understood all about deadlines.) But your poem inspired her poem, just like that, and before she knew it, she’d gone and hit the send button.
Your schedule was too busy to visit. (She figured it would be.) But you made time to write back. You told her you loved her poem, that it made you smile.
And that made her whole teacher-day.
That teacher was me.
And that explains why I had to sit down when you tweeted this picture last week, saying you found your book in good company at the bookstore. There’s your book on the left, and beside it, Grace Lin’s book, and then mine. Roald Dahl and Karen Cushman are there, too, just for good measure.
Thanks for making my day. Again..
A small room was devoted to Smith alum, Sylvia Plath. We see a draft of Among the Narcissi filled with cross-outs and new words, with still more lines and notes from an editor at The New Yorker, then we see it published in the magazine.
David Trinidad had given us a brief introduction to both Sylvia Plath and tulips in his amusing and profound poem The Red Parade. Here we find Sylvia Plath’s Tulips on the wall and can also listen to a recording on a television. The poem tells of a red gift in a stark hospital room at a time when the narrator felt as if of nurses were claiming her clothes, the anesthetist her history, and the surgeons her body, so that I believed the line near the end: “Tulips should be behind bars like dangerous animals.” I like the poem, but am glad I’m a person who can receive tulips and simply say “Thank you, what a gorgeous color!” The recording was made in 1961, two years before Plath would die by her own hand at age thirty, leaving two children.
This heart-tugging show is open until the first weekend of September.
Divya Srinivasan on Octopus Alone: an interview by Chris Barton from Bartography. Peek: "'Loner' seems such a negative word, and so definitive. I liked showing a character who loves her home, but realizes she needs some space, and who then ends up finding a place that feels all her own, like a precious secret."
Finding the Perfect First Sentence by Jessica Brody from Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing. Peek: "Sometimes, as a writer, all you get is one page, one paragraph or even one sentence to hook a reader. So it’s crucial to pick the right opening."
Physical Attributes Entry: Butts from The Bookshelf Muse. Peek: "Physical description of a character can be difficult to convey—too much will slow the pace or feel 'list-like', while too little will not allow readers to form a clear mental image."
Saying "No" to an Editor by Darcy Pattison from Fiction Notes. Peek: "You can refuse a contract for any number of reasons. Money, vision for the published manuscript, an unkind word. You never have to sign a contract."
Where Are All the Black Boys? by Varian Johnson from They Call Me Mr. V. Pek: "Either people will think it's not relevant to them because it features a black boy. Or they won't buy it because they'll think it's about slavery or racism. Or people won't buy it because it's not true Black History Month material." Note: don't miss the continuing conversation in the comments. See also 2013 Middle Grade Black Boys: Seriously People? and Judging Covers by Andrea Davis Pinkey.
|Will Konigsberg's "influential" choice|
An Ongoing Discussion, an Ongoing Question by Charlesbridge editor Julie Ham for CBC Diversity. Peek: "Can authors or illustrators write about or illustrate cultures and races different from their own?" See also Diversity in the Caldecott Winners & Honors (Or Lack Thereof) from Children's Literature Network.
What If? A Method for Developing Ideas by Elizabeth S. Craig from Mystery Writing is Murder. Peek: "You can brainstorm this way. You can even outline this way. You can get yourself out of plot holes this way."
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in Children's Literature from Colorín Colorado. Peek: "...celebrates family traditions and the rich diversity of Asian and Pacific Americans with books, activities, and a variety of resources and ideas for ELL (English language learners) educators."
Genre Bending/Blending by Brian Yansky from Brian's Blog. Peek: "There's something inherently rebellious about writing fiction. And there are writers who find themselves, even if they begin writing in a certain genre they love to read, wandering."
Guest Editor Danny Fingeroth on Submitting Graphic Novels from DearEditor.com. Peek: "...having pages of the story drawn and lettered to include with the proposal is generally a good idea, although there is the chance that some editors may not like the look of the art, and so may reject the story even if they like the writing, and even if you make it clear you would be willing to work with another artist."
- Ball by Mary Sullivan (PB)
- Nothing But Blue; Me, Penelope & Country Girl, City Girl by Lisa Jahn-Clough (YA)(3 books!)
The winner of Feral Nights by Cynthia Leitich Smith was Amanda in London, and the winner of Eternal: Zachary's Story by Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Ming Doyle, was Brandon in Florida.
See also Interview with Joy Preble & Giveaway of The Sweet Dead Life from Cari's Book Blog.
This Week at Cynsations
- Sharron L. McElmeel on Creating an Author/Illustrator Website with Teacher-Librarian Appeal
- New Voice Tamera Will Wissinger on Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse
- Shirley Reva Vernick on Defining Success
- New Voice Kit Grindstaff on The Flame in the Mist
Here's a peek at my comings-and-goings last week in the Austin children's-YA lit scene.
|At the YAB Fest reception with Jessica Lee Anderson, P.J. Hoover & Danny Woodfill of The Book Spot in Round Rock.|
|Julie Dinkel Woodfill of The Book Spot & author-editor Madeline Smoot|
|Author E. Kristin Anderson & librarian Jen Bigheart|
|Authors Cory Putnam Oakes & Krissi Dallas|
|Jen & author Lindsey Scheibe|
|Authors Lindsey Lane & Shana Burg at the Austin SCBWI monthly meeting|
|With authors Susie Kralovansky & Bethany Hegedus|
|Author-speaker Lynne Kelly|
As for this weekend, Joy Preble will speak and sign The Sweet Dead Life at 3 p.m. May 18 and Lindsey Scheibe will speak and sign Riptide at 2 p.m. May 19 at BookPeople in Austin.
See also Cynthia Leitich Smith on Eric Gransworth's If I Ever Get Out of Here (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic) from Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature.
- Krissa Hillman Created Cupcakes for Literacy
- Tarot for Writers
- Carol Lynch Williams & WIFYR
- Blog Tour: Sirens in the Time of Gatsby (featuring Janet S. Fox)
- Launching a Book with a Tea Party by Catherine Stier
- What's the Point? Five Writers Offer Lifelines for MFA Despair
- Astronauts Set to See "Star Trek Into Darkness" in Space
Cynthia Leitich Smith at 6:30 p.m. May 25 at Round Rock Public Library.
Join Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith at 11 a.m. June 11 at Lampasas (TX) Public Library.
Join authors Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, Nancy Werlin and ICM Partners literary agent Tina Wexler at a Whole Novel Workshop from Aug. 4 to Aug. 10, sponsored by the Highlights Foundation. Peek: "Our aim is to focus on a specific work in progress, moving a novel to the next level in preparation for submission to agents or publishers. Focused attention in an intimate setting makes this mentorship program one that guarantees significant progress." Special guests: Curtis Brown agent Sarah LaPolla, authors Bethany Hegedus and Amy Rose Capetta.
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations
Funny how we writers shoot ourselves in the foot. I’m talking about the merciless way we pressure ourselves to be successful.
Actually, I’m talking about the way we define success, and how that definition can cripple our creativity.
"Sell more copies!" we command ourselves. "Boost that amazon.com rank!"
How can the creative juices flow on our next project when we’re so worried about the numbers on our current publication?
Clearly, sales figures are important for those of us who are trying to make a living. But obsessing about our stats can trigger productivity-quashing anxiety.
I think we need to expand our definition of success in a way that stimulates a more fertile mindset. A mindset where we give ourselves the freedom, the personal permission, to write from the heart and feel good about it, bestseller list or not.
Here is my new definition of personal success. Aside from the sales reports, I am succeeding if:
- I’m enjoying my work—writing with enthusiasm and honing my craft.
- My teenaged daughters are seeing me working hard in pursuit of my goals.
- I’m getting positive reviews.
- People are visiting my website and Facebook author page.
- I’m receiving speaking invitations.
Take my first book, The Blood Lie, a YA novel based on a real anti-Semitic hate crime that happened in the 1920s. When I first got the idea for the book, some people in my circle tried to warn me off. “Historical Jewish-America—it’s too narrow a subject of interest,” they advised. “No one will buy it.” I, however, saw a broader theme, one with immediate contemporary relevance: intolerance. The book was published and went on to win several awards, including the Simon Wiesenthal Once Upon a World Book Award.
Remember Dippy (Cinco Puntos Press, May 2013), is also a story from the heart. In this novel, 12-year-old Johnny is dreading summer vacation because he has to help out with his autistic cousin, Remember.
Remember is fanatical about Twinkies. He’s awkward. He watches the weather channel for fun. So Johnny is sure the summer is going to be a bust. But when some jewels go missing...and the local jock gets stuck in the lake during a storm...and a lonely new girl comes to town...things get more exciting than either boy could have imagined.
The story was inspired by the people in my life (some of whom are relatives) who have cognitively-based behavioral differences. I felt I had to write this story, and I think the book’s writing reflects that commitment.
Moving on to the point about positive book reviews. Does this mean that any less-than-stellar review constitutes a failure? No! This is a lesson I’m still learning. I have to remind myself that, no matter the inherent value of my work, there are going to be people who don’t love it and rave about it.
Just as there are professors who never give A’s, just as there are people who like us but don’t want to be our best friend, there are going to be reviewers who criticize. That’s just life.
|Shirley's window view|
|Twinkles, the muse|
|Jiffy, the distraction|